By Aaron Thornell (St. FX)
While travelling by jeep through the National Park in the alphabetically awesome country of Zambia, I began to think about the tourism industry present here in this area of sub-Saharan Africa – or at least that with which our group has engaged. It differs greatly from much of the tourist destinations present in many of the other parts of the world I have been fortunate enough to visit: the Coliseum of Rome, the Empire State Building in New York, the Louvre museum in Paris, or any of the amazing sights of London. Before I go off writing pieces for Daily Planet’s next issue of “Tourist Sites All North American’s Love”, I will get to the point. All of these aforementioned sites are man-made structures, ancient, somewhat more recent, and new, and draws visitors by the millions every year. The nations and cities where these are found are, of course, also home to natural beauties; here in Malawi and Zambia, I have yet to witness this duality of income-producing possibilities. The attractions that bring a great deal of foreign capital are natural sights and untamed wilderness, for the most part left unaltered by humans. The mountain of Livingstonia and the savannah plains of Zambia have been capitalized by humans – in many cases non-Africans. Both lodgings we stayed in were owned and managed by Caucasians – although one was born and spent a great deal of his life in Africa. The town of Livingstonia, too, was founded by Scottish missionaries.
It is interesting, I think, to consider this dichotomy. Despite the overwhelming European presence in Africa since the mid to late nineteenth century – a time when many man-made structures were being constructed in Europe and North America – there are very few of such monuments found in this region of Africa. Why? I suppose the largest factor was the role Europe envisioned for the African continent. Much of the landmass, in particular that which was located south of the Saharan desert, was designated as a territory ripe for exploitation, for temporary benefit followed by unceremonious discard. How different is my own visit here?
Under the ruse of a much needed break from our stressful humanitarian work (I only italicize because I at times consider how those living in the conditions we are working in are unable to take such breaks) we are treating these beautiful environments in a similar way. The parallels between a colonial occupation and our visit to Zikomo Lodge in Zambia have caused me significant disturbance and led to many questions.